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4 Charged in Nationwide Fake-ID Case

Two Oxnard men are accused in a ring that produced counterfeit cards since 1996.

August 05, 2003|Holly J. Wolcott | Times Staff Writer

Two Oxnard men and two others have been charged with more than a dozen felonies stemming from a nationwide fake-identification card ring.

Ventura County district attorney's officials announced the arrests and charges Monday and expressed concerns about the bogus identification cards -- in print since 1996 -- being used for other serious crimes.

"Persons using assumed names and engaging in criminal or terrorist activities could utilize these cards to further their activities," Dist. Atty. Greg Totten said in a prepared statement.

Some cards contained false and assumed names based on counterfeit documents provided to card vendors, prosecutors said.

Cards also were bought by unknowing, undocumented residents who believed they were legitimate.

Additional arrests were expected, but prosecutors declined to comment on any ongoing investigations.

Since August 2000, the cards have been manufactured at a Los Angeles office at a rate of up to 100 a day.

Officials acknowledged that the cards also could have been used in dozens of cases of identity theft and other fraud crimes.

District attorney's investigators began working on the case more than six months ago after receiving complaints from Oxnard police officials about residents and crime suspects showing the cards to officers as proof of identification.

On Feb. 25, one of the suspects, Jose Guadalupe Hernandez, 32, of Oxnard allegedly attempted to sell a "United States Identification Card" to an undercover investigator.

The four individuals have been charged with up to 25 criminal counts each, including 15 felonies. If convicted, they could receive up to eight years in prison, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Karen Wold.

"These identification cards were not government-issued, but they contained a government seal, an eagle and the flag of the state the person came from," Wold said.

On Monday morning, Evelyn Evic Hairapetian, 53, of Los Angeles turned herself in to Ventura County authorities. She was suspected of working at the Los Angeles office where the cards were made, Wold said.

Hairapetian remained jailed Monday night in lieu of $20,000 bail.

Hernandez and Antonio Medina Romero, 53, of Oxnard were arrested Friday in Oxnard. Hernandez runs an electronics shop and Romero owns a pager company, authorities said. Both pleaded not guilty Monday and remain jailed in lieu of $20,000 bail each.

Authorities believe Hernandez and Romero sold the cards from their businesses.

On Thursday in Coconut Creek, Fla., Alek Fidanian, 66, owner of United States Identification Card, a private corporation, was arrested on a warrant and jailed.

Wold said he posted bail and would be in a Florida court for an extradition hearing Aug. 19.

Officials said anyone in possession of a phony identification card could be prosecuted and fined up to $2,500.

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